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How To Use Your Smartphone In A Protest

Consider this scenario:

Hundreds of people gathering at town square in the morning have become thousands by the afternoon. The chanting from the protesters is only drowned out by the growl of police tanks rolling up a residential street. No Justice! No Peace! No Justice! No Peace! The police begin setting up barricades, pushing the crowd back with riot shields. To your left, a teenager picks up a baseball sized rock. He rears back for a pitch as if he was on a dusty mound in the ninth inning of a game too close to call. As you watch it leave his fingertips and tumble into the air, two smoke bombs land ten feet behind you. In the haze, the crowd lurches forward, pushing the barricade in a cacophony of coughs and cries. A woman in front of you loses her balance and falls against a police officer, who cracks her jaw with his baton in the chaos of his own fear and frustration.

Most of us participate in social activism with the best intentions. We want change for the better. But far too often the tension caused by the inevitable tragedies that precursor uprising overflows into violence. What then, comrades? How can we hope for the best, while preparing for the worst?

Your smartphone is a Swiss army knife of protest enabling applications. Here’s a few tools to have on hand before you head to the streets:

Record Police Discreetly

Although you are legally allowed to record police activity with some reasonable limitations, the reaction from police officers who don’t wish to be recorded can incite tension between authority and activists. You might have seen one of the now thousands of videos of police officers taking strong umbrage to having bystanders record them to ensure professionalism, or document brutality.

It’s more important now than ever that people record and publish on social networks the social uprisings that are occurring across the country to balance the bias of mainstream media. Instead of agitating police by recording overtly, ACLU New Jersey offers “Police Tape,” a free app to discretely record police interactions. You’re not going to be much good to the cause if you’re in a holding cell on trumped up “failure to disperse” charge.

everypostEngage in Citizen Journalism

Speaking of social networks, you don’t want to be Instagraming your protest selfie when the stun grenades start falling. There are a couple of different social media uploaders that will allow you to upload your shot of modern revolution to several platforms at once. Unfortunately the best costs a few dollars after the free trial. Hootsuite by far has the most capabilities with analytics reports and scheduling. There is a reasonable free alternative called EveryPost that has similar features with a little more bugginess. Social media uploaders are also convenient tools for spreading the word about your demonstration before the event.

Alert Comrades You’re Getting Arrested

“I’m Getting Arrested” is an app created after The Occupation in New York. The application allows you to preset a message and recipients. In the event that you are arrested while peacefully demonstrating –  or in the case of Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery, just minding your own fucking business in a McDonald’s – just long click the target button to alert your comrades of your predicament.


Live Stream Reporting.

When social uprising frightens authority so much that journalists are among those arrested, the responsibility of watchdog falls on the citizens themselves. Those interested in protest events can tune in live via to channels broadcast by civilians on the ground in real time, giving them unmediated access to up-to-the-minute-information. Social uprising works when the world stands in solidarity with protesters. The authorities know this. That’s why police are arresting journalists in Ferguson, Missouri.


Maintain Solidarity.

In the confusion and panic of a protest gone awry, you might be separated from your comrades. However, you can find them quickly again using the “Find My Friends” app. The application uses the GPS in your phone to locate friends that you program into it. Your friends don’t even need a smartphone for you to find them, but they do have to give permission for location triangulations.

Last note. According to recently passed legislation, police need a warrant to search your phone. Watch below for more information about your right to privacy.

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